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News : Findings prompt more research into anti-HIV gel

CAPE TOWN — The Department of Science and Technology has lent its support to further research into a tenofovir-based gel for preventing HIV infection among women, hoping the investment will ultimately see SA developing the capacity to manufacture and export the product.

Pharmaceutical imports are the fifth-biggest contributor to SA’s trade deficit, so the government is keen to find ways to make more of these goods in SA.

Local production also improves security of supply.

The Technology Innovation Agency has a licence from the US research organisation Conrad for the African rights to a microbicide containing tenofovir gel, and has an agreement with local firm Cipla Medpro to manufacture and distribute the product should it prove safe and effective.

Yesterday Deputy Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom and US ambassador Donald Gips announced a bilateral initiative to support a phase 3 trial of a microbicide containing the AIDS drug tenofovir.

The department has provided R70m for the study, called Follow- on African Consortium for Tenofovir Studies (FACTS), while the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed $18m.

The study seeks to confirm the findings of the Caprisa 004 trial, announced last year. Caprisa 004 was a phase 2b study, involving 900 women from two sites in KwaZulu-Natal. It found that a microbicide containing 1% tenofovir, if used before and after sex, reduced the chances of women contracting HIV by 39%. The gel also halved the risk of contracting herpes, a viral infection that increases vulnerability to HIV.

But the findings had a wide margin of error, with the efficacy of HIV protection estimated to lie between 6% and 60%, said FACTS protocol chair Prof Helen Rees. A larger trial was needed to confirm the Caprisa trial and satisfy regulators of the gel’s safety and efficacy, she said.

An unexpected finding was increased sexual pleasure.

"One of the big messages we got, was many women said ‘We liked this.’" Most of the feedback during that study had come from women in their menopause. If the gel proved successful, the sexual pleasure factor could be a marketing option. Source BUSINESS DAY

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Tags: and   of   The   HIV   Department   Technology   Science  

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